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article imageMarine industry aims for low-sulfur fuel by 2020

By Tim Sandle     Oct 15, 2019 in Environment
A push is on to lower emissions produced from shipping, focusing on the use of low sulfur fuels. A target has been set to significantly reduce limits into 2020. To assist shipping fleets, a new standard has been issued.
The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has set a target of January 2020 for the implementation of a new regulation that limits the sulfur content of maritime fuel, down to 0.50 percent. This has been introduced as part of an environmental protection standard.
The new requirement will be challenging, given that the current maximum permitted level in fuel is up to 3.50 percent. Furthermore, current practices mean that this high-sulfur fuel is generally in use.
To assist in the process of seeking sulfur reductions, new guidance has been published. This is in the form of a standard issued by the International Standards Organization (ISO). The standard is titled: ISO/PAS 23263: Petroleum products – Fuels (class F) – Considerations for fuel suppliers and users regarding marine fuel quality in view of the implementation of maximum 0.50 percent sulfur in 2020.
The intention of the ‘Publicly Available Specification’ (PAS) is to assist organizations in making the transition before the 2020 deadline, despite the tight timeframe. The specification also provides guidance on the application of current specifications, as outlined in the associated document ISO 8217 ‘Petroleum products – Fuels (class F) – Specifications of marine fuels’.
According to ISO committee chair Nicolas Rouquette: “This document will help both suppliers in the development of suitable marine fuels and users in making the change and will enable a smooth transition to 0.50 % sulfur fuels by the deadline.”
There may be problems meeting the 2020 objective for many shipping fleets, according to a review conducted by McKinsey. The review finds that the global refining system is not yet equipped to make this volume of residual fuel oil at 0.5 percent sulfur once the regulation goes into effect.
One of the challenges with producing sufficient quantities of low sulfur fuel is manufacturing oil with sufficiently low viscosity. Furthermore, the process also needs to produce fuel that is of sufficient quality to avoid thermal shocks or damaging parts of engines like pistons.
The main producer of low sulfur fuel is Singapore. The city-state is the world’s largest refueling port for cargo ships and it will become the primary trading site for low sulfur fuels. Oil companies like Shell have already increased supply of low sulfur fuels, in readiness for the new requirement coming into effect.
More about Sulfur, Shipping, Supply chain, Fuel
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